April 13, 2023

Closing the Leadership Intent-Impact Gap

Reach better outcomes with these 3 tips from Dina Denham Smith to grow as a leader and drive greater alignment between your intent and impact.

Picture of By Stuart Paap

By Stuart Paap

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As a leader, what you do and say matters. 

And like anything, we often have the best intentions: to motivate, delegate and drive a greater impact. 

But what happens when you find out your intent and impact are in conflict? 

What do you do when there’s a tension building between your internal feelings and the actions you’re taking? 

What happens when there’s blockers between you and your ability to delegate tasks to your team?

Dina Denham Smith, seasoned leader and certified executive coach, highlights that today the emotional labor of leadership has become greater than ever.

But, there are skills leaders can focus on to drive greater alignment between their intent and impact, ultimately driving better outcomes for their team and their growth as a leader. 

We recently sat down with Dina to learn more about:

  • How to walk the “authenticity tightrope” as a leader
  • How to reduce the “tax” that comes with the emotional labor of leadership 
  • How to remove the internal barriers that often block effective delegation 

Here’s the top three most important leadership lessons and actionable insights we learned from Dina.

1. Find the Right Balance in How You Show Up

Humble, but confident. 

Authentic, but professional. 

Today, more leaders are expected to “bring their whole selves to work” and create deeper interpersonal connections with their team. 

However, with this cultural movement towards bringing our more “authentic selves” to work, comes the reality – there are also unwritten rules around how leaders are expected to behave and show up at work. 

Dina calls this the authenticity paradox, or walking the authenticity tightrope: leaders want to bring more authenticity to their role, but sometimes when they do that they can lose credibility. 

Take this recent New York Times article for example called “Do Not Bring Your Whole Self to Work,” advocating for the importance of “a little healthy compartmentalization.” 

So, what’s a leader to do?

According to Dina, one of the best ways forward when it comes to how to lead, is to lead with warmth. 

She shares that creating your leadership brand is a bit like making soup – you can bring in strength, you can add a dash of vulnerability – but at the end of the day leaders can find balance in the direction of warmth, even when strength is required. 

Dina explains that a growing body of research now shows that warmth is one of the best approaches to building influence: it helps to facilitate trust, openness and the “absorptions of ideas.” She highlights that even when a leader needs to use strength – such as speaking to someone who’s not performing – they can still lead with warmth. 

So how exactly does a leader determine if they have the right balance of leadership qualities, all while peppering in their authentic self? 

Dina’s number one tip: get high quality feedback. If you’ve never had a 360 review, start here.

2. Reduce the “Tax” that comes with the Emotional Labor of Leadership

We’ve all experienced those moments on the job where our internal feelings and the external display of emotion we’re expected to have are in conflict. This is an example of “emotional labor.” 

Dina reveals that leaders can often pay a heavy “tax” when it comes to the emotional labor involved in leadership.

Not only do leaders play highly visible roles, they’re accountable to stakeholders on multiple levels:

  • Supporting their own team
  • Reporting up to their own boss
  • Responding to escalated client or customer issues
  • Reporting back to the board 

Dina highlights that the “display rules” – how leaders show up – to each of these stakeholder groups are likely different. She explains that emotional labor comes in when leaders are working to regulate their emotions internally and then there is some sort of display. 

  • When your internal feelings and external display align – things are good. 
  • When your internal feelings and external display aren’t aligned – it can take a toll, one Dina calls the leadership tax. 

So how can leaders lessen this tax and show up to be most effective? 

Dina reminds leaders that it’s not about your intent, it’s about your impact. 

She urges leaders to refocus on why their work matters, what their team needs and the impact they can ultimately have in driving better outcomes. She reminds leaders that while they often intimately know their own intent, and that many decisions they make come from lengthy, involved, rigorous thought processes, that more often than not their own team hasn’t been along for the same cognitive ride. How do you rectify this?

>> Don’t underestimate the value of communicating the “why” behind your decisions. 

If you’re looking for even more tips to lighten the leadership emotional labor load, read Dina’s Harvard Business Review article that includes four more tips for remedying the conflict between your own emotions and the ones you’re expected to display.

3. Remove the Internal Barriers Blocking Effective Delegation

Whether you’re a newly minted leader or you’re in the c-suite, one of the most critical skills many leaders struggle to unlock is the art of delegation. 

Dina has worked with top leaders who are regularly up to the early hours of the morning executing work on behalf of their team. 

In fact, Harry Kraemer, former CEO of Baxter International, recently highlighted on the Stand Up to Stand Out Podcast that many leaders are promoted because they can do the work of three team members, but most struggle to mobilize the work of 30. 

So what gets in the way of effective delegation? Dina highlights a number of reasons she’s come across when coaching leaders, including:

  • Belief you can do it faster yourself
  • Feeling guilty for asking someone to do more work
  • Wanting to protect your team 
  • Believing your way is the right way 
  • Worry your own value might decrease of you delegate work away from yourself

Her fix? 

Start by asking yourself what beliefs you’re holding on to that might be blocking your ability to delegate. 

Then, think of the impact you want to have three to five years from now. 

Ask yourself where you might be too involved and where you can step out. 

Attach the hard work of building better delegation skills to something you really want:

  • Making a deeper impact on your team
  • Evolving as a leader 
  • Rising up the ranks 

Most importantly, she reminds leaders that simply connecting with people is part of your job. It’s a legitimate way to spend your time: connecting people towards a greater purpose. By delegating more tasks you can free up your time to build deeper connections.

Dina Denham Smith, seasoned leader and certified executive coach

Keep learning, keep leading

Did these leadership insights resonate with you? Are you looking to learn more? 

Listen to the full interview with Dina. Denham Smith on our podcast here: Closing the Gap Between Intent vs. Impact in Leadership

Learn more about Dina and her approach to leadership on her website: www.dinadsmith.com

Looking to build your influence? Get in touch below and ask to take our exclusive leadership influence styles assessment, here at Influence DNA

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